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What's the Better Protein Source? Daily eating Habits vs Protein Powders

Updated on November 8, 2016

Where does your Protein come from?

Protein from Powder/Shakes

When I was recently working out in one of the local gyms here in town, I was approached and asked questions by a very ambitious young man in the gym that stated he had aspirations of one day becoming a professional body builder/fitness competitor. The questions the young man asked was, how could he build big, lean mass as quickly as possible and if it was really necessary for him to take a protein supplement. He also inquired about whether the human body processed whey protein that's found in the protein shakes faster than the protein that you consume everyday that's already in your diet/eating habits. The first thing I said to this young man was that he needed to be realistic in his fitness goals, building lean mass is a process that is going to take time, no matter what kind of protein you take, it's not going to happen overnight. The question was raised "how long" will it take. There are several variable factors as an individual (everyone is different) that will help determine the time frame in which it occurs and protein is definitely a big part of the equation. Let's examine the difference between the protein sources.

Variety of the best Protein Sources

Lean Mass Banana Split Shake

Lean Mass Banana Split Shake

  • 1/2 Frozen Banana
  • 1 tsp Banana extract
  • 2 tsp Whipping Cream, Heavy Cream, not from a can
  • 2 scoops Chocolate Whey Powder, No carb whey powder
  • 10 - 12 oz Water
  • 4 - 6 Ice cubes

Protein Shakes

The short answer to the question is a relatively simple one. Yes. Whey protein, concentrate, isolate or any other form or mixture of whey for that matter is already broken down prior to you even putting it into your mouth. It takes someone approximately 45 minutes (depending on the person, everyone's body/metabolic rates are different and will vary) for your body to process and absorb any form of whey protein, which is exactly why it's always a good rule of thumb to drink a protein shake within thirty to forty five minutes after an intense workout to replenish when your body needs protein the most to recover, repair and rebuild itself. Theoretically you could actually live off of just drinking protein shakes alone and still be in perfect health, but that really would be kind of boring and I don't think anyone would want to do that, day in and day out. There is still a lot of nutritional value and variety in your normal, everyday diet/eating habits full of animal and vegetable proteins.

Chart with Protein Sources

Sources of Protein

Protein from your Diet

As for the protein that comes from your everyday diet, such as eggs, fish, beef, chicken, beans and all other good sources of protein, they all must be broken down by your body's digestive process first. Starting from the time you put the food in your mouth and begin to start chewing your food, the enzymes that are contained within your saliva will assist in the dissolution of the protein in whatever it is that you are eating. In the terms of food from your diet, egg whites (also one of the best sources of protein) are broken down and processed the fastest. It takes the body approximately an hour and a half to 2 hours to process them. Of course this will vary by individual because everyone's metabolism and body process work at different speeds. Other common forms of protein such as chicken and beef require a little more time, approximately 3 hours to digest. It takes nearly 4 hours for the body to digest any pork you have consumed. But believe it or not, pork isn't the worse thing you could eat or processed the slowest. Casein or milk protein can take the body close to 7 hours to completely process. Consider the time frames of digestion for the different proteins when you are taking them. Taking a protein that takes a lot longer for your body to process is not going to be the most beneficial right after a rough, intense workout.

Where does the bulk of your protein come from?

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Alcohol Slows the Digestion Process

Things that Impede the Digestion Process

Of course there are always other variables that may delay the delivery of vital nutrients to your body, such as the fat content in the food/shake, the more fat that is contained within the meals you eat, drastically impedes the digestion process. This is why post workout, you will want to ingest something non fat so that it gets delivered to your muscles as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Drinking an inadequate water supply (should be drinking 8 - 10 glasses a day) will also slow down the digestion process because your body will attempt to conserve water insufficient amounts. Drinking alcohol is about as equivalent to putting a poison in your body and will definitely hinder the digestion process as your body tries to expel the poison (alcohol) from itself. All proteins are not the same, although protein is healthy, consuming it excessively will slow down your body as well. Remember, too much of anything is bad for you. Unlike the carbohydrates you eat, your body does not have the ability to store protein, so once it absorbs everything it needs to restore/build itself, the rest of the protein is excreted as waste. So that is also something you should consider before you start loading up on the shakes. Know your body, and understand how much protein you can consume and how much of it your body will actually absorb. The amount of and where the protein comes from are contingent upon your body and fitness goal.


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    • profile image

      Panasca 2 years ago

      I noticed that when using this you can almost feel the protein as it pulsates through your body. I've gone supplement less for a few (hard to believe I know) but I could feel my bench remain and this is the perfect addition to any post workout regiment. I don't want to say too much to insure I don't step on Christina's or Krysten's toes but long story short, for the guys out there, this is just as good as Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey protein.

    • Bodyfitnest profile image

      Bodyfitnest 4 years ago from Mount Vernon, Washington

      I try to consume plenty of veggies with my protein. Specifically before I consume protein. Sort of layering within my stomach. I feel this helps speed up the time it takes to process chicken, turkey and like protein sources.

      Protein without any carbs or healthy fats is difficult for your body to break down and even more difficult for your body to absorb.

    • profile image

      ExoticHippieQueen 4 years ago

      Hi Alphadogg16. Nice article. I am not a body builder, but a 63 year old teaching assistant. Recently, I returned to using whey protein after not using it for a couple of years. I have been dragging around with no energy and battling a few minor infections. Since adding whey back into my diet, I have much more energy than before, and my infections disappeared. I love the immune-boosting benefits and energy boost of whey!

    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 5 years ago from Texas

      Thanks. The human body is amazing. Once you learn the science behind it, reaching your goals becomes a lot easier.

    • Gamerelated profile image

      Gamerelated 5 years ago from California

      These are great tips on the use of protein shakes. Especially, the tip on trying to get protein right after working out. A lot of people don't know that the timing of protein is also very important.

      I didn't realize that it takes so long to absorb protein from milk. I definitely have a lot to learn from you and I look forward to reading more of your Hubs.